Archive for Wednesday, August 2, 2000

Schwalm, car headed to nationals

August 2, 2000

The 1933 Ford Cabriolet that J.T. Schwalm, Baldwin City, is taking to the 31st Annual Street Rod Nationals this week is his favorite but, then again, the car that he is working on at the moment is always his favorite.

Schwalm, who has been working on classic cars for most of his adult life, has spent more than three years building the Cabriolet. As a street rod, the two-seater has an original body, but has been modernized with power seats, power windows, air conditioning, cruise control and a CD player.

"I was lucky to find it," said Schwalm. "It was pretty complete. This is the only one I've seen for sale with a body like this."

Schwalm found the body of the car at a swap meet. He knew then that it was a rare car with the potential he was looking for. The seller said the car was a drag strip racer in the 1940s and 1950s in Louisiana. Later, it was stored, then moved outside to face all of nature's elements.

At his rural Baldwin home, Schwalm added a new chassis, engine, removable hardtop and other modernizations. Other work on the car was done locally. The car was painted a jet black by Brad Ayers, of Oskaloosa. The interior was done by Sam Wright, Baldwin City.

Finished in the spring and driven to shows throughout the Midwest, the Cabriolet quickly became an award-winning car and caught the attention of the National Street Rod Association.

The NSRA chose Schwalm's car as the Kansas State Pick for the 31st Annual Street Rod Nationals Thursday through Sunday in Louisville, Ky. His car will be competing against six cars from the other six states in NSRA's West Central Division for the title of "West Central Division Pick."

Schwalm doesn't know what he would win, if chosen, and he doesn't care.

"I'm just happy to have received this," he said. "I don't build cars for the awards, I build them to drive.

"It will probably be against cars put in trailers and hauled to Kentucky. That's not what it is all about."

Schwalm is drawn to vehicles from the 1930s. His next project is a 1931 Model A truck which his oldest daughter drove to high school in the 1980s.

"I've always liked this year of car," Schwalm said of the 1933 Cabriolet.

Schwalm's hobby of antique cars began when he was in high school and drove Model As to school. He has built at least 20 vehicles since all of them his favorite.

"It's always the one you are working on," Schwalm said. "This one is my favorite now."

Schwalm, who sells printing equipment from his home, will have plenty of company in Louisville. The event typically draws more than 10,000 pre-1949 cars from across the country, and he will be driving to the show with his wife, Julie.

"We drive it everywhere," Schwalm said of the car, which will be driven to the show, not hauled.

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